Chilmark sets June 8 town meeting

Commercial wharf found to be in danger of foul weather collapse.

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Harbormaster Ryan Rossi expressed concern about corroded bolts that pin the commercial wharf to the bulkhead in Menemsha.

Chilmark selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday night to schedule the annual town meeting for June 8 at 5:30 pm with an annual town election slated for June 10 from noon to 6 pm. 

Town administrator Tim Carroll told the board an indoor meeting wasn’t in the cards.

“The moderator and town counsel talked with us and believe that we don’t have enough room inside the community center to make social distancing work for more than 42 people, maybe 50, and we usually have 70 to 100 and some odd,” Carroll said. “So they thought we should have it outside and the moderator has the authority [call] a rain date, postpone it to another date, if that’s necessary. We’re looking at the possibility of a tent. We’re looking at the just doing outside, al fresco.”

The start time will be at 5:30 pm, instead of 7 or 7:30 pm to “get in and get out without being in darkness,” he said.

Though not expressly stated in the meeting, selectman Jim Malkin later told The Times town meeting is expected to take place somewhere on the grounds of the Chilmark Community Center or adjoining open spaces. 

Carroll went on to say at the meeting that the warrant was pared down from 28 to 18 articles. Anything remotely contentious will be taken up in the fall, such as the proposed new fire station and Tri-Town Ambulance headquarters. 

“It is a much shorter warrant than we usually have at town meeting because this is a very unusual time,” selectman Warren Doty said.

In other business, the board heard a report from Harbormaster Ryan Rossi about the state of the commercial wharf in Menemsha. Rossi explained repairs done by Offshore Engineering for accidental damage done by the FV Martha Rose totaled $15,000. While executing the repairs, Rossi said Offshore Engineering owner John Packer noticed bolts that tie wharf brackets to the steel bulkhead were dangerously corroded. 

“When we pulled those bolts out — they were originally ¾ inch in diameter and they’re about the size of a toothpick now,” Rossi said. “So it becomes an immediate safety concern…”

Rossi said he received an $42,500 estimate from Packer to do the repairs. 

Selectman Bill Rossi asked if the repairs could wait until a special town meeting in fall.

“Is this something that’s dire at this time?” he asked.

“After speaking with John Packer about it — he doesn’t strike me as somebody who’s going to go up in arms about something unless it’s really necessary — he seemed to think, and he’s a very experienced dock builder…, that it’s a pretty immediate safety concern,” Ryan Rossi said.

He went on to say, “We’re in danger of the dock caving in.”

The board voted unanimously to pay Packer for the $15,000 repair out of the selectmen’s unclassified fund. The board tabled the $42,500 repair, which they deemed necessary, until their next meeting when they could get a better picture of how to pay for the repairs.